by Jim Blum, FolkAlley.com
Some of the most charming people you’ll meet will tell you that they feel out of place. Take Putnam Smith for example. With his rustic outfit and never fading smile, he looks like he stepped out of an early American history book. In fact, he’ll tell you that he would probably feel more comfortable in the 19th Century. It makes no difference – his new release of old sounding music shines and it’s ours to treasure now.
This multi-talented minstrel from Maine writes using literal or implied themes and accompanies himself on guitar, banjo, and piano. Filling out the sound are Seth Yentes on cello and Joe Meo on clarinet. Two singers join him, Jenee Halstead and Mariel Vandesteel, who also plays fiddle throughout.
The album opens with an original instrumental “I Dream of Apple Orchards” which is edgy and should inspire you to dance. There you have it, one song and you’re on your feet.
On “Say Darlin Say” Putnam is joined by Mariel in sort of a singing proposal of old fashioned love. It’s clever and can easily make you wistful for a sweeter, simpler time. The cello/violin interludes are impressive. Perhaps the most thought provoking number is “Thought I Knew,” a coming of age message about returning home years later. Putnam reveals to us that the character in the song almost doesn’t recognize himself in his old possessions; he has changed so much.
The music is fun, the ideas are thoughtful, and the variety of instruments keeps your interest. If you are ever fortunate to meet Putnam Smith or better yet to hear him play and sing, don’t be surprised if you too don’t begin to feel like stepping into the past.